Bush committed to Mexican truck entry despite court challenge

| 1/24/2003

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said earlier this month that President Bush is committed to “making certain that we honor our obligations to Mexico, which are part of NAFTA,” indicating he is committed to allowing Mexican trucks onto U.S. highways.

Fleischer was asked Jan. 17 if there was any official reaction to the Jan. 16 Ninth Circuit Court ruling ordering the administration to assess the environmental effects of allowing Mexican trucks to travel on U.S. highways beyond U.S. commercial zones.

Specifically, the court ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to prepare an environmental impact statement and Clean Air Act conformity determination before Mexican trucks can travel beyond U.S. commercial zones.

In its ruling, the court found DOT "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" by failing to prepare a full environmental statement. On May 1, 2002, the Teamsters union joined a coalition of environmental, labor and consumer groups in a lawsuit to stop the Bush administration from opening the border to Mexican truck traffic.

The question to Fleischer came during the regular White House press briefing. Here’s what he said:

"Currently that review from the court in San Francisco is under review -- the opinion of the court in San Francisco is under review. The president is committed to living up to NAFTA, to our NAFTA obligations, by opening the border to our friends in the South in a way that is consistent with safety.

"The president demonstrated this commitment when he lifted the moratorium on Mexican trucking in November of 2002. We have worked to ensure that the regulations require stringent safeguards to keep America's highways safe.

"In addition, the regulations require that all Mexican trucks that enter the United States adhere to all U.S. federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations.

“In terms of the specific case, which was just decided yesterday, the Justice Department is reviewing its specific substance…

"The president does feel strongly about making certain that we honor our obligations to Mexico, which are part of NAFTA. And he does believe very strongly that it can be done in a way that's consistent with all environmental regulations."